“I don’t have that much time, and I want to be able to do precisely what I’m called to do,” West said in an interview with The New York Times. The Times reported that he plans to “finish out” his teaching career at Union.
West will become professor of philosophy and Christian practices at Union in July 2012. He will teach a full schedule of classes on philosophy, theology, social change, community engagement and Christian activism, according to a Union press release.
“Union is a place where Cornel West’s view of the world is in our life blood,” said Rev. Serene Jones, president of Union, in the press release.
Union is widely known as the birthplace of black theology; eminent theologians and scholars Reinhold Niebuhr and James H. Cone have taught at the school in the past. West said Union is “the institutional expression of [his] core identity as a prophetic Christian.”
West held an assistant professorship at Union from 1977 to 1984 and again in 1987. He will be taking a “significant pay cut” to teach there again, he told the Times.
West will remain an emeritus professor at Princeton, according to the press release. He has bounced back and forth between Princeton, Yale and Harvard over the past 30 years, holding professorships in religious studies, African American studies and philosophy.
“As someone who has spent many, many hours in the classroom with Professor West, I can tell you that our University is losing a master teacher,” politics professor Robert George, a longtime friend of West’s who has cotaught several seminars with him, said in an email to The Daily Princetonian. “By example as well as precept, he taught students in our seminars to explore ideas and arguments in a thoughtful, morally serious way, and to engage each other in a spirit of genuine civility.”
“I will always regard our collaboration in teaching the great texts of Western civilization as among the highlights of my life at Princeton,” George added.
African American Studies professor and department chair Eddie Glaude, Jr. GS ’97, said in an email to the ‘Prince’ that West has “played a foundational role in life of Princeton and in the development of the Center.”
“He will be greatly missed, but we will continue to work diligently to build on his legacy here at Princeton and to be true to his witness,” Glaude noted.
“Princeton has greatly benefitted from his teaching and his active participation in the intellectual life of our campus,” President Shirley Tilghman said in a statement to reporters. “We hope he will return to visit from time to time.”
West is “a champion for racial justice through the traditions of the black Church, progressive politics and jazz,” according to his Twitter biography. Active in social commentary and political activism, he is a frequent guest on television programs like “The Colbert Report” and “Real Time with Bill Maher” and was arrested several times this fall as part of the Occupy movement. He also appeared in “The Matrix Reloaded” and has released two spoken word albums.
West has been on sabbatical this term. Commonly seen around campus in his tailored black suit and distinctive afro, he taught AAS 201: Introduction to African American Studies, a freshman seminar, as well as numerous seminars in religion. West has written 19 books, including his 2009 memoir, “Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud.”